March 27, 2001 11:21: STRIFE in the borough's schools could soon be at an end after council education chiefs agreed to open talks with teachers over their contracts.

Nearly a month after teachers across the south-east voted to put a ban on covering for colleagues on sick leave, absences and long term vacancies, the industrial action is being called off.

Now teachers in two unions the National Union of Schoolmasters and Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) and the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and their council employers are to open talks on contracts and covering absences and vacancies in schools.

Peter Johnston of the Bromley branch of NASUWT was happy normal service was being resumed. He said the talks with the council were a breakthrough in the face-off adding that these were backed by a new Government inquiry into problems in teaching.

He said: "We are very pleased that we are able to call off our action and the Government is trying to take a serious look at the chronic problems in the profession."

Although some London schools had to send children home because of staff shortages, Bromley Council said the teachers' industrial action had so far not affected any schools in the borough.

Mr Johnson said teachers were going to push for Scottish-style contracts limiting the teaching hours.

Anil Dawar